Feed Limmy’s 40 Songs of 2016

In keeping with this annual tradition that stretches back to a land before Snapchat and Gigi Hadid, I am here to present you Feed Limmy’s Songs of The Year.

Over the years it has become more of a documentation of songs released in the past 12 months that I have really enjoyed or have soundtracked a special memory. I think for that reason, these lists of the more intimate nature perhaps carry a bit more meaning and weight, as they’re not critically-inclined but are measured by the standard of one’s enjoyment and personal connection. Which after all, is what music is all about.

#40 – Lissie ‘Don’t You Give Up On Me’

You might look at Instagram stories of me with clip-in hair extensions and gold hoops throwing hands and lip synching to Blu Cantrell and think, this bitch won’t be into ‘country folk’. And you’re right. But there’s something so graceful about the way the melodies dance in the air on American singer-songwriter Lissie‘s ‘Don’t You Give Up On Me’ that I find myself keep coming back to time and time again. It’s also one of the very rare few new music I’ve discovered through listening to the radio. How old-fashioned, right?  Except for the part where I held my phone close to the speakers to Shazam it.

#39 – Iggy Azalea ‘Team’

This year hasn’t gone quite to plan for Iggy Azalea. ‘Team’ was meant to be the lead single from her soon-to-follow second album Digital Distortion but she shelved all plans for some time out to record more new material after her very public and sour break up. Which is well within her prerogative, might I add. She eventually wound up on the judging panel for X Factor Australia without taking advantage of any performance opportunities but nonetheless ‘Team’ really shouldn’t be forgotten. Despite Bebe Rexha co-writing the hook, the track is sans feature creature, which is somewhat of a switch for Iggy. It’s not a loss that is felt since this only amplifies the song’s message of self-reliance.

#38 – The Veronicas ‘In My Blood’

A svelte and strob-lit pop outing for The Veronicas. Working with songwriting-production duo DNA, who have delivered countless worthy pop gems for Sony Music Australia artists, this unapologetic foray into the mainstream dance-pop sphere earned the twins a return to the top of the Australian singles chart.

#37 – Tayá ‘Sweet Waste of Time’

Luscious R&B for millennial ears – this is what 17-year old Liverpudlian Tayá is offering with great finesse. ‘Sweet Waste of Time’ is an assured debut single that showcases both sweetly innocent and street-wise swagger qualities the singer brings, under the masterful production of AlunaGeorge‘s George Reid.

#36 – Dua Lipa ‘Hotter Than Hell’

Any 2016 review of pop would not be complete without a toot of Dua Lipa‘s incredible ascendence into prime time. Bolstered by this irresistible radio-ready banger with a bite, it’s easy to see why the 21-year old is the name on everyone’s lips.

#35 – Tegan & Sara ‘Boyfriend’

I love songs about that ambiguous, ungoverned state between friend and lover. In fact, I love it so much that I’ve created an entire playlist dedicated to it). But this… an 80s pop flecked stadium-shaking jam written and sung from a queer woman’s perspective is a rare gem. As it was with their 2013 album Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara‘s union with Greg Kurstin is one I celebrate without restraint. It’s brilliant to see that they are building on their indie-pop excellence in Love You To Death, which by the way is a flaw-free album which needs to be revisited right away.

#34 – MØ ‘Final Song’

What a bountiful bed of earworms this turned out to be. Between the global successes of ‘Lean On’ and ‘Cold Water’, Danish pop superstar-in-waiting somehow managed to wedge in her own solo, bonafide banger. Written by MØ, MNEK and Noonie Bao (what a fucking trinity!) and produced MNEK himself,  this might just be the most perfectly 2016 sounding record ever. A perfect encapsulation of our vibe. A boundary-less savannah cross-pollinating pop melodies, raw indie vocals, R&B rhythms and tropical house flourishes.

#33 – All Saints ‘Puppet On A String’

As much as I was elated and excited for this incredibly dignified return of All Saints, I wasn’t that blown away by the comeback single ‘One Strike’ or the album Red Flag to be honest. However, this wavy reggae-pop fest really perfectly fused their signature style with something that feels current and I will forever pressed that this wasn’t a single.

#32 – Tinashe ‘Company’

Despite a chequered year of changes and transitions for R&B siren Tinashe, amounting in countless collaborations, a cancelled tour, and Britney renaming her, she had a moment of getting it really right with ‘Company’. This feline-esque, shadowy boudoir number is precisely what I’ve expected from her since ‘2 On’ and ‘All Hands on Deck’.

#31 – Shura ‘Nothing’s Real’

A joyous 80s pop revival by one of 2016’s true vanguards of pop Shura. Who else could fashion a song about panic attacks into such a vivacious, twirling disco moment that connects the twinkling essence of retro Kylie and the modern touches of Dev Hynes?

#30 – Dami Im ‘Sound of Silence’

The year Australia grabbed Eurovision by the balls and showed the world it was not playing around. This skyscraper ballad by South Korean-born Aussie songstress Dami Im left millions snatched clean from the root. The lyric about FaceTime is still not cute but what can you do?

#29 – Years & Years ‘Meteorite’

Aside from being an intelligent and worthy role model for young queer people, 26-year old Olly Alexander (wait, he is older than Sam Smith?!) is also a bonafide pop prince-in-making and I’m glad this was the year we really saw him come into the forefront. In a year where urban music is reclaiming its stake and dance pop is still yet to yield another combative mega-trend after the irksome ‘tropical house’ phase, it’s wonderful to see Years & Years sticking to the popstatic formula they’re celebrated for.

#28 – Ariana Grande ‘Touch It’

This restless, yearning electro-pop ballad from ponytailed diva of high notes Ariana Grande really deserves as much look in as her mega hits from the Dangerous Woman album. The thirst is real.

#27 – ZAYN ‘TiO’

A throbbing nocturnal banger dripping with a voyeuristic carnality as vivid as Fifty Shades. While I still find the solo endeavour of any member of One Direction to be a farce, this standout album track from ZAYN‘s debut really stimulated my imagination.

#26 – Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna ‘This Is What You Came For’

I don’t think I eye-rolled as hard as I did when I learned Taylor Swift had co-written this mega floor-filler for her then-lover and Armani underwear Adonis: Calvin Harris. Rihanna carries this subdued, mid-tempo house number with such great class… long may this creative liaison between Ms Fenty and Harris live.

#25 – Bruno Mars ’24K Magic’

Decadent, early-80s funk that served a touch of glamour to the harsh and sombre face of 2016 music. Serious hats off to Bruno Mars, I really was not expecting to enjoy this new album as much as I did. The homage to late 70s slash early 80s funk, disco and R&B on 24k Magic was exactly what I needed. It’s sold gold fun, it’s polished yet full of soul and personality.

#24 – Jennifer Lopez ‘Ain’t Your Mama’

As a lifelong Jennifer Lopez evangelist and apologist, it shook me to my core to see people who maybe haven’t connected with her music since ‘On The Floor’ really coming on board with ‘Ain’t Your Mama’. This Meghan Trainor-penned pop delight is a fistful of sass with a knowing jab, perhaps, at her younger and less-house trained ex-lover. If you can bear the cringey product placements, the music video is yet another must-see J.Lo masterpiece.

#23 – Britney Spears ‘Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes)’

Spotify informs me that Britney Spears is my most played artist of 2016… and even better yet, I am in the Top 1% of Britney fans. If I did nothing else this year, I know I’ve at least done the work of God. The whole rejuvenated fandom in Britney was spurred by her triumphant return to form, Glory, which in my opinion is her best album since 2007’s Blackout and 2011’s Femme Fatale. There is barely a single track out of the 17 on the deluxe edition album that I would skip. However, the Spanish guitar bop ‘Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes)’ was a real clincher for me. A-grade vocals with a clarity that we have pined for for years and those signature coquettish lyrics, this is Britney with her game on.

#22 – Meghan Trainor ‘Me Too’

These days you cannot cross the street, let alone tweet, without watching your back if you have confessed that Meghan Trainor‘s had a few alright pop tunes. Let the record show that I’d be quite alright with being branded a basic bitch for enjoying ‘No ‘ and ‘Me Too’. Much as I tried to hide my initial embarrassment for liking the ostentatious ‘Me Too’, something inside me just couldn’t give a fuck and am vehemently opposed to the concept of guilty pleasure. It’s just pleasure. Pure pleasure.

#21 – Katy B x KAYTRANADA ‘Honey’

I got chills the first time I heard ‘Honey’. Partly because I was fantasising this as Mutya Keisha Siobhan‘s comeback single, but this alluring trickle of R&B over a warm bed of synths and electronic beats is such a welcomed sensual and mature showing from London sensation Katy B. I am utterly consumed.

#20 – RAY BLK ‘Baby Girlz’

One of my favourite rising stars of 2016. R&B singer-songwriter Ray BLK completely drew me in with her effortlessly poignant look into her world in South London – its beauties, its strength and its struggles. ‘Baby Girlz’ – the opening of her debut album Durt – addresses teen pregnancies in the hood and the cycle of disadvantage, and while the singles ‘Chill Out’, ‘My Hood’ featuring her cousin Stormzy, and ’50 50′ all are possibly more worthy contenders – the honesty in this track set the tone for me.

#19 – BLACKPINK ‘BOOMBAYAH’

It has not been that big a year of K-pop moments for me but new generation girl group BLACKPINK, who are closely tailored in the same blueprint behind 2NE1, are indeed one to watch for. ‘BOOMBAYAH’ – their debut – is a hectic, hair-flicking and strutting extravaganza that fuses the most extravagant characteristics of hip hop, euro-EDM and Korean pop to adrenalin-raising effects. It is so majorly extra but I’m all for it.

#18 – Icona Pop ‘Someone Who Can Dance’

A stomping, petulant party starter – now this was what I signed up for, Icona Pop. The Swedish duo may have found their brand of bratty, club-infused records going in the way of Ke$ha‘s pop career, especially in light of other more subdued EDM trends dominating 2016, but there is no shadow of doubt this is a massive tune by any standards.

#17 – Clean Bandit featuring Louisa ‘Tears’

An ambitious dance record that only becomes more overwhelming the more you look into its complex sonic structures. I can totally see why ‘Tears’ was heralded by Popjustice as the ‘I Will Survive’ for this generation. You’ve got the winning combination of classic, big diva vocals courtesy of X Factor champ Louisa Johnson, dramatic melodic ebbs and flows, lush orchestral strings, stomping club beats that climax at a middle-eight that throws down with defiant, tear-streaked lines “I’ll get over you. I don’t need you to call me tonight! I don’t need you to see if I’m alright!”. A true pop masterpiece that expands with every listen.

#16 – Pet Shop Boys ‘The Pop Kids’

The Pet Shop Boys, the ever-sophisticated Merlins of electronic pop, finally gave us a song that sums up our fandom and devotion to often misunderstood genre of pop. In world where bands who have been around as long as they have are relegated to money-grabbing reissues, overpriced box sets and limping new material, they continue to reign supreme. Utterly assured in what they do best and never failing to deliver fresh doses of it, ‘The Pop Kids’ is one of very many undeniably brilliant offerings from their 2016 album Super. Take note, everyone.

#15 – Meghan Trainor ‘No’

This was giving me life all year round purely for its deliberately early-00s pop/R&B style production, like some unearthed Destiny’s Child demo via Darkchild from The Writing’s On The Wall sessions. It is an exciting reference point and the aggressive bass complemented the girl power-driven/man-child putting down anthem Meghan Trainor was delivering. A pleasant shift in direction for the much-vilified pop singer. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying, this was the first record of hers that I’ve wholeheartedly enjoyed. 

#14 – AlunaGeorge featuring Popcaan ‘I’m In Control’

A futuristic-moombahton jam that, for me, really encapsulated the youthful and street-style essence of our buzzing, East London creative scene. There is something in the wobbly synths and gently grinding reggaeton beat that takes me to memories of dancing in crammed basement clubs in Dalston and magazine launch parties with complementary drinks, teeming with stylists, designers, up-and-coming musicians, photographers, DJs, radio DJs, bloggers, agents, PRs.

#13 – Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla $ign ‘Work From Home’

Whatever happens to Fifth Harmony from here on out, they can disband in knowing they have produced at least three major, stone cold bangers – ‘Work From Home’ being the chief, of course. This was possibly the first time 5H showed us they understood that less is definitely more. While the temptation with five X Factor wannabe-divas-in-training on a track tends to lead to some cringey levels of over-singing, the girls’ chilled and intimate vocal performance here ends up steals the show. Think it’s safe to say that this silky, urban mid-tempo will always be a pop highlight of 2016.

#12 – Solange ‘Cranes In The Sky’

In a world overrun by notoriously mechanical music production cycles where hits are conjured in tried-and-tested formulas informed by streaming stats and radio airplay successes, it’s actually quite a relief to be presented with ‘Cranes In The Sky’ – a song that was eight years in the making. A graceful and undeniably lived-in record that speaks to our deeply human journey to find inner-peace.

#11 – Leo Kalyan ‘Fucked Up’

A real moment of vulnerability and outpouring of feelings that grabbed me by the heart and wouldn’t let go. ‘Fucked Up’, by openly-gay Muslim singer songwriter Leo Kalyan, comes to you with the heaviness of accepting himself and the accompanying baggage of guilt triggered by what this means for his family and his relationship with them. As someone who grew up in a very conservative Christian family where homosexuality was taboo and never spoken about, this brought back a lot of dormant feelings from my coming out and even, to this day, questions about whether my father truly loves me and accepts me for who I am.

#10 – Maria Mena ‘Leaving You’

I have not come across a break-up song that aches and breathes out all the complex emotions about letting go, grief, and not feeling adequate quite like ‘Leaving You’. Norwegian pop singer-songwriter Maria Mena remains a genius at exorcising her inner demons and crafting them into delicate, introspective songs that speak to our darkest, most private selves.

#9 – JoJo featuring Wiz Khalifa ‘Fuck Apologies’

It’s easy in this world of raging egos and perpetual schoolyard bully behaviour to feel small and stepped on, if you allow it. This was probably the first year since leaving high school that I have faced such a weight of negativity. And I mean the manipulative kind where you’re made to feel you’re in the wrong even though it is you who have been wronged. It completely cut my self-esteem and confidence down to the root, and I shamefully allowed it by not sticking up for myself or knowing how to. It was an important lesson for myself in learning where to draw the line and protect myself, and also how to be fair to myself. I’ll always remember the pent-up rage and defiance I was carrying around to this track in this particular chapter of my life.

#8 – Zara Larsson ‘Ain’t My Fault’

A pop soloist groomed with military effort and precision for mega-stardom: this was the year of Zara Larsson‘s mainstream genesis. You can only imagine what’s to come in Q1 2017. Emerging from the foreground of worldwide hits ‘Lush Life’ and ‘Never Forget You’ (with MNEK), comes something with much bigger balls. ‘Ain’t My Fault’, written by Zara and MNEK first came to life as a sinister song depicting Zara taking a man from another woman and then mocking her about it. It was later re-written to the version we all know when the label smelled hit potential. The Rihanna-esque swagger circa Talk That Talk / Good Girl Gone Bad she is delivering over slapping beats is too much – this whole thing is just perfection and I cannot get enough of it.

#7 – Fifth Harmony ‘That’s My Girl’

A brash and unashamedly showy, Superbowl Half Time Show-scale girl power anthem. That’s what I’m talking about. The energy and bravado here is everything I want to see live on in a female pop group soundtracking a post-Spice Girls and Sasha Fierce generation. From the second we opened Fifth Harmony‘s 7/27 album with its honking sax, stomping beat and multi-tiered harmonies in the chorus, ‘That’s My Girl’ has been a complete blockbuster experience.

#6 – Beyoncé ‘Formation’

A musically militant declaration of black pride and feminism by the world’s most powerful female entertainer that lodged itself into the mainframe of pop culture in a year of great divide, pain and unrest. When I look back on 2016, I see not a single moment in music that tops the cultural significance and impact of Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

#5 – TIFFANY ‘I Just Wanna Dance’

The Carly Rae Jepsen of K-Pop. That is the best way I can sum up the magic of what Girls’ Generation solo star TIFFANY had gifted us in ‘I Just Wanna Dance’. Sweet and girly yet wistful, this is deserving of all the time you have left in this calendar year.

#4 – Sia ‘Cheap Thrills’

This time last year (December 2015), I found myself quietly moving back home to Australia after my two-year visa expired. There were efforts being made by the PR agency I was with to sponsor me under a new work visa but it hadn’t materialised in time, so there I was snatched out of the hectic-yet-festive wintery cheer of London and flung to other side of the world with the blissful summer heat. I remember walking on beaches and amongst trees in nature last December and January… unemployed, unsure of where to take my life next, drinking lots of beer and acclimatising to the slower pace, listening to ‘Cheap Thrills’ (a lot!). The song’s laid back tropical, reggae pop beat and themes about not needing lots of money to have a good time suited me just fine. This record arrived at the right time for me.

#3 – Ariana Grande ‘Into You’

Pure pop ecstasy, whose excellence is repeatedly exacerbated by the way it is celebrated so religiously amongst fellow ‘Twitter gays’. Where the fervour for Carly Rae Jepsen had faded a little this year post E.MO.TION, said collective went on to thrust their mania into making ‘Into You’ their one true anthem of the year. Upon hearing the opening verse, the song becomes a beacon on the dance floor which all gays frantically flock to from coke-dusted toilet cubicles and long-suffering queues at the bar where eyes roll every time some twink and their fag hag that pushed in front of you gets served. There are more than a few panicked reaching out of arms from individuals in search of their squad to share this sacred moment where ponytail-diva Ariana is uniting the fam. That’s the magic of it. ‘Into You’ will forever remind me of utterly blissful times flicking hair and throwing elegant, seductive shapes under coloured lights in a sea of glitter-smeared, bearded homosexuals.

#2 – Tove Lo ‘Cool Girl’

I remember when Tove Lo came through with ‘Habits’ in 2013 and that became my Song of The Year. Girls Aloud‘s ‘Something New’ – which she co-wrote – received the same honour just the year before. It’s clear her pop witchcraft is something that resonates with me on several levels. Aside from being a sterling, A-grade pop gem, I find the ice-cold front and self-preserving tactics in ‘Cool Girl’ to be both fascinating and appropriate to my generation. We are a first-world tribe that are intelligent, woke, and having to cope with much more than previous generations. We are a tribe familiar with rejection and exclusion not just through face-to-face interactions but also on multiple social media platforms. We are a tribe afraid of getting hurt and will find many ways to distance itself from confronting our feelings. We are individualistic, we thrive on self-gratification and we chase the highs. The beauty of this pop offering runs much deeper than just sounding cool and being a really catchy 3 minute 19 banger – it’s in its ability to reflect all these very human experiences to us.

#1 – Shura ‘What’s It Gonna Be?’

I feel a great deal of tenderness and warmth whenever I hear this Shura song. There is an instantly nostalgic quality and innocence to this shimmering 80s pop gem that will sound forever young in my mind. ‘What’s It Gonna Be?’ was undoubtedly my song of the summer. I remember working on British Summer Time Hyde Park in July, where she was one of the support acts and being so super excited to finally see her live and experiencing this track in that way. I remember doing a phone interview with her with the Daily Star  and Q&As with Daily Mirror and BEAT Magazine Online to promote her appearance. I also then went out to buy Nothing’s Real – it was the first CD album I have bought and queued up at a record store to get signed since Melanie C came out with Beautiful Intentions 11 years ago. I think in spite of all the painful and incredibly lonely growing pains I’ve gone through this year, I can at least look back on this summer and the first half of this year as a really bright, optimistic and exciting time in my 20s. And for that I’m grateful to have songs like this to remind me of it.

LISTEN to FEED LIMMY’S 40 SONGS of 2016

You can, of course, enjoy these songs in a playlist format right here – well, all except ‘Formation’, which isn’t available on Spotify.

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